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Robert "Bob" Phillips

January 8, 1927 May 19, 2019
Robert "Bob" Phillips
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Obituary for Robert "Bob" Phillips

Robert Keith "Bob" Phillips, 92, passed away peacefully at home on May 19, 2019, from natural causes, having lived his first nine decades without darkening the doors of hospitals or doctors' offices.  Born January 8, 1927 to Robert J. and Cora Geary Phillips in a log cabin at the base of the South Moccasin Mountains, Bob grew up on a ranch that remains in the family today, alongside older sisters Sylvia, Mary, and Kay, and twin brother Sam.  Late in life, he would recall that his family didn't have much when he was a youngster, but "didn't know any better," so "we were happy anyway." 

Bob's lifelong involvement in ranching (and work in general) started early on, and he and Sam were herding sheep with a hired man on summer range 30 miles from home with weeks between supply deliveries by the time they were pre-teen boys.  When he wasn't working he played marbles, skated on frozen ponds, attended dances at Brooks, swam and fished in Spring Creek near the original Phillips homestead just south of Lewistown, and picked berries from secret spots in the coulees on the ranch.  He and Sam developed an impish streak, and in high school they would swap jerseys at halftime of their basketball games, or swap dates afterward, laughing about the use of their identical appearance to hoodwink foes and friends alike. His sense of humor never waned. 

World War II had not yet ended when Bob finished high school.  After one semester at U of M, he and Sam joined the US Navy and served as signalmen in the Pacific, including a stint in the Philippines.  After the war, he attended Montana State College, where he received his degree.  While at Montana State, he made a trip up to Helena to see his dad who was serving in the state legislature, and gave a ride to Florence Fae Taylor, whose dad was also a legislator.  They married in December 1950, and spent the next seven years working the Taylor family place near Scobey in Daniels County, where sons, James Edmund and Wesley Jay were born. 

In 1958, Bob and Fae bought a stake in the ranch where he grew up, so they moved to the Lewistown area, which would be their home for the rest of their days.  Never afraid of a challenge, Bob spearheaded the family's transition from sheep ranching to cattle ranching, and he was involved in bringing some of the first Simmental cattle to the United States in the 1960s.  Daughter, Julie Marie joined the family in 1969. 

Knowing expansion was necessary with two sons interested in ranching; Bob bought the Wendt place on Warm Spring Creek in the 1 970s, followed by the adjacent Burnham place in the next decade.  In 1 979, he volunteered to move to town so both Jim and Wes could run their own operations, without any uttered or otherwise observable sadness, reservation or complaint.  Through much of the 1980s, Bob served as a Fergus County Commissioner. 

While Bob always took meticulous care of his yard, garden, and house in town, he also remained a constant presence on the ranches, and he continued to work with both of his sons into his 80s, serving as ranch hand and advisor (positions that don't pay quite as well as one might think).  Just a few weeks ago, Bob attended his last branding, his apple brand still searing the calves' hides, and three generations of his offspring hard at work. His family will miss seeing one of his old, white Ford pickups crawl down the roads surrounding the ranches on summer afternoons and evenings, to scrutinize, survey, and inspect; something many of us witnessed hundreds of times and always looked forward to. 

A leader in his family, church, community, and industry, Bob imparted wisdom to anyone who paid attention to his words and deeds.  He stood up for what he thought was right, continually made productive use of his time, lived responsibly, and practiced quiet generosity.  While he always remained true to his frugal Scottish roots, he sought fairness in his negotiations, and was known for saying that the guy on the other end of the deal needed to make a living too.  He was devoted to Fae through nearly 66 years of marriage, cheerfully adding cooking, cleaning, and personal care to his workload when her health made those tasks impossible for her in her last years. 

Voicing a final Easter dinner prayer just a month prior to his passing, Bob expressed gratitude for the things that mattered most to him- a Savior, a good family, a good ranch, and a long, healthy life.  All who were part of Bob's family can count that fact as a gift of God, and while we're sad that he's gone, we're more prominently thankful for a life well-lived. 

Bob is survived by sons, Jim (Marla) and Wes (Susan) all of Lewistown; daughter, Julie (Aaron) Hansemann of Helena; grandchildren, Clint (Sydni), Alyson, Kory (Jaymie), Scott, Tye (Rachael), Isabel, Aidan, Eloise, and Ainsley; seven great-grandchildren; and former daughter-in-law, Gayle Phillips of Great Falls.  Preceding him in death were wife, Fae; parents, Robert and Cora; sisters, Sylvia, Mary and Kay; brother, Sam; infant son, Mark Donald; and infant great- granddaughter, Jayde. 

A Celebration of Bob’s Life will be held on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at the First Presbyterian Church at 11:00 a.m.  A reception will follow in the basement fellowship hall.  Memorial donations can be made to Gideon’s International or to the First Presbyterian Church. 

Arrangements are under the care of Creel Funeral Home.  Bob’s family and friends can share memories and condolences at

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Previous Events





11:00 AM 5/28/2019 11:00:00 AM
First Presbyterian Church

215 5th Avenue S.
Lewistown, MT 59457

First Presbyterian Church
215 5th Avenue S. Lewistown 59457 MT
United States

Cemetery Details


Lewistown City Cemetery Final Resting Place

8th Ave. N.
Lewistown, MT 59457

8th Ave. N. Lewistown 59457 MT
United States

Memorial Contribution

Gideons International

The Gideons International
P.O. Box 393
Lewistown, MT 59457

First Presbyterian Church

215 5th Avenue S.
Lewistown, MT 59457

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